An article by Anke Sommer
A decision with serious consequences – can I always decide between positive and negative?
It’s a few years ago now that I took a decision: to live consistently according to positive standards. Of course I had always been committed to the positive in life – or so I thought: I’d been careful to deal responsibly with people and the environment around me. But up to then I hadn’t actually taken a conscious decision to reinforce nothing but the positive in future wherever possible. At that time I was completely unaware of the consequences such a decision would have.
Why am I telling you this?
Quite simply, because my work as a coach and consultant depends on this decision. It impacts my work, my worldview and all my actions and decisions. And I would like to invite you to experience this too. It’s worth it.
Let’s start at the beginning of the story: the moment of the decision.
Positive or negative: what does that mean?
As a pragmatic person, I term all positives as a plus (‘+’) and all negatives as a minus (‘-‘). I also assume that we can only follow one of these poles, either the plus or the minus, at any one moment. Consequently, after deciding that from now on we will reinforce the positive, we now face the challenge of examining our actions every second to see what is positive and what is negative. That sounds easier than it is, because hardly anyone is aware of the awareness-raising process that lies behind a decision of this kind. This process has far-reaching consequences in every area of life, whether in our relationships with our partner, friends or child, in our behaviour in relation to the environment, in the responsibility we bear for that financial instrument, money, and of course in our responsibility for our own bodies.
Taking a serious decision in favour of the positive therefore also means activating your own ‘no’ to negative factors and making use of it in future. But above all, the decision means not looking at other people but only at yourself. This decision frees us from telling others what is good or bad and we instead become uncompromising with ourselves when it comes to actions with good and positive consequences. Let’s begin the process with the positive ‘no’.
The positive ‘no’
You can recognise the positive ‘no’ by the way it protects your own strength, your health, your relaxation time, your peace at home, the happy moments in your life, your confidence and much more. It starts with yourself, as do all the actions deriving from the decision to reinforce the positive from now on. In this way, the positive ‘no’ develops into a guide rail that excludes all destructive actions.
To avoid getting caught up in a philosophical debate at this point, it’s important to ensure that the expression ‘destructive actions’ is not strictly limited to the word ‘destructive’. Of course ‘destruction’ sounds negative, but destruction is not always immediately recognisable as such.
It’s not always the actions but the consequences that matter
The consequences that result from our actions determine whether the actions are positive or negative.
For example, if I work until I collapse, you might think that my level of commitment to my work is fantastic and therefore it’s a positive. But if I work until I collapse, and thus obviously damage my body, the action becomes negative.
If consultants tie their clients to them in order to ensure their own financial security, they risk the client becoming dependent on them, which means that this is also a negative action.
If doctors sacrifice themselves in relation to their patients without paying attention to their own health then an attitude that in itself is hard-working and tirelessly helpful becomes destructive, that is, a negative action.
But what can we do if we’re given an unpopular task at work that for example results in many staff members losing their jobs?
Many managers are faced with precisely this task
In this case, you’re caught in a dilemma between the task and your conscience. How can you act positively in this situation? In this instance, you take up the task while constantly keeping in mind the question of how you can achieve a positive consequence through your work. The higher your level of responsibility, the more frequently you ask yourself this question. In the end it is again your own self at the core of the decision. How does your work affect your state of mind? What impact do your actions have on you yourself? How can you carry out the task and at all times act in a way that you yourself can bear? What are you unwilling and unable to bear? How do you deal with that situation? You’ll be amazed at how your actions change when you are committed to positivity.
In the end, this way of thinking will gradually lead you through every dilemma, bit by bit. I wish you a lot of fun trying it out.